It’s hard to think of anyone as excited about the upcoming North American total solar eclipse as NASA. From citizen research projects to hosted events within the path of totality, the agency is ready to make the most of next month’s cosmic event—and they want to help you enjoy it, too. Earlier this month, NASA offered a series of tips on how to safely and effectively photograph the eclipse come April 8. Certain precautions are a must, but with a little bit of planning, you should be able to capture some great images of the moon’s journey across the sun, as well as its effects on everything beneath it.

First and foremost is protection. Just as you wouldn’t stare directly at the eclipse with your own eyes, NASA recommends you place specialized filters in front of your camera or smartphone’s lens to avoid damage. The easiest way to do this is simply use an extra pair of eclipse viewing glasses, but there also are a number of products specifically designed for cameras. It’s important to also remember to remove the filter while the moon is completely in front of the sun—that way you’ll be able to snap pictures of the impressive coronal effects.

[Related: How to photograph solar eclipse: The only guide you need]

Sun photo

And while you’re welcome to use any super-fancy, standalone camera at your disposal, NASA reminds everyone that it’s not necessary to shell out a bunch of money ahead of time. Given how powerful most smartphone cameras are these days, you should be able to achieve some stunning photographs with what’s already in your pocket. That said, there are still some accessories that could make snapping pictures a bit easier, such as a tripod for stabilization.

Next: practice makes perfect, as they say. Even though you can’t simulate the eclipse ahead of time, you can still test DSLR and smartphone camera settings on the sun whenever it’s out and shining (with the proper vision protection, of course). For DSLR cameras, NASA recommends using a fixed aperture of f/8 to f/16, alongside shutter speeds somewhere between 1/1000 to one-fourth of a second. These variations can be used during the many stages of the partial eclipse as it heads into its totality. Once that happens, the corona’s brightness will vary greatly, “so it’s best to use a fixed aperture and a range of exposures from approximately 1/1000 to 1 second,” according to the agency. Most smartphone cameras offer similar fine-tuning, so experiment with those as needed, too.

[Related: NASA needs your smartphone during April’s solar eclipse.]

A few other things to keep in mind: Make sure you turn off the flash, and opt for a wide-angle or portrait framing. For smartphones during totality, be sure to lock the camera’s focus feature, as well as enable the burst mode to capture a bunch of potentially great images. Shooting in the RAW image format is a favorite for astrophotographers, so that’s an option for those who want to go above and beyond during the eclipse. While Google Pixel cameras can enable RAW files by themselves, most other smartphones will require a third-party app download to do so, such as Yamera and Halide.

But regardless of your camera (and/or app) choice, it’s not just the sun and moon you should be striving to capture. NASA makes a great point that eclipses affect everything beneath them, from the ambient light around you, to the “Wow” factor on the faces of nearby friends and family members. Be sure to grab some shots of what’s happening around you in addition to what’s going on above.
For more detailed info on your best eclipse photographic options, head over to NASA.